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Identity Hardcover – 10 Oct 2018
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As wise as it is compact, travelling at great speed through difficult terrain to a sensible conclusion.
As a primer on the big political shift of our times, and an explainer of how we got here, this is not a book to pass by
Sweeping and ambitious
A useful primer on an important subject
<p>Praise for <i>Origins of Political Order:</i></p><p>'Fukuyama remains as prominent as ever'</p>
<p>Praise for <i>The Origins of Political Order</i>: <br>It should be read by every democrat - and every dictator.</p>
Fukuyama writes clear prose and is a pleasure to read.
The divisive impacts of identity politics laid bare by the bestselling author of <i>The Origins of Political Order</i> and <i>The End of History</i>See all Product description
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His analysis of thymos, the need for human dignity, identity and today's politics around it provides a very good understanding of not just politics today in the United States and Europe but also a perspective on the Arab spring or French revolution. The author explains the actions of the left and right groups.
His view of national identity, democracy are such which one can also relate in the Indian context.
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On a positive note Dr. Fukuyama's ability to set context once again is a strong foundation. He starts with the Greeks and works his way to the present. His description of the evolution of thought is an education by itself. (Not to mention that anyone who has read "Snow Crash " gets a special place in my heart.) Rather than, as most reviewers do, give you a synopsis (I will leave that to others) I will focus on my misgivings.
1. A central theme is the human need to be valued. This need to be valued is intrinsic. But there is a difference between being valued and narcissism. Dr. Fukuyama does not help me understand where valuing you when you are deluded about your self worth plays into a creedal society.
2. Dr. Fukuyama speaks about diversity in traditional liberal (as in leftist) terms - race, creed, gender, etc. What was missing for me was the value of "diversity." Will I somehow be a better person and citizen if I have to read 100 illiterate and meaningless authors to tick the diversity box before I can read a second Fukuyama? I wholeheartedly disagree that meaningless prattle becomes inherently meaningful because of the race, religion, gender, national origin or learned experience of the author. I would have expected Dr. Fukuyama to rail against such identities but he does not.
3. Dr. Fukuyama speaks to inequality of economic success and appears to favor redistribution. This flies in the face of, and stomps heavily on, the concept of property rights - a fundamental attribute of the U.S. Constitution. It does not matter to me if it is a King, a dictator, or a "liberal democracy" when they appropriate my private property for some egalitarian "public good" I am going to resent those who benefit from the fruits of my labor. The governmentization of private charity has turned a positive social good into a negative evil. This area is not addressed as part of the fracture of society into interest groups.
4. Dr. Fukuyama does not discuss merit other than in the context of the earliest warrior class except to note that the general population seems to have substituted vacuous celebrity for the prior principles of honor, service and sacrifice. If everyone is self-actualizing their self aggrandizement why is this surprising? We have a old fashioned word for this: selfish.
4. Finally a note about President Trump. Given Dr. Fukuyama's public dislike for the President I expected him to go off the deep end as has Stephen Pinker ("Enlightenment Now".) He does not. But where I hoped for more insight was in "the road not taken." Most of us (projecting the Universe (Multiverse) from a sample of one) are not engaged on a daily basis with the arc of history. My favorite analogy for political action is a pendulum. As an issue swings to an extreme more and more people are driven from their lethargy and become active participants. But the pendulum has to swing. Both Dr. Fukuyama and Michael Porter ("Competitive Advantage") point to the negative impact of the continuation of policies and institutions that have long outlived their usefulness. President Trump is a disruptor of the status quo. Both Dr. Fukuyama and I agree that the status quo seems to be in the direction of a retreat of liberal democracy. Maybe a little disruption is a good thing. Which is not to suggest that I approve of the President's antics.
On a personal note: I am retired and live alone on a sailboat. I have spent the last 9 years traveling all over the world. I have immense personal time and usually spend 3 to 4 hours a day reading and taking online courses during which time I am required to pet my very demanding cat XO. I find that the descriptions of the "right" are totally foreign to my personal experience of people in the United States. I don't identify with the "right" as described nor do I identify with the "left." I honestly don't know who these people are. In a multidimensional space we need more than a linear description.
*(new) According to Gallup in 2017 42% of Americans identified as "Independent", 29% as Democrats, 27% as Republicans. So what are "Independents?" Left, Right, Up, Down, Charmed, Strange? (Inside joke for quantum theory proponents.) Their viewpoint appears to be ignored by Dr. Fukuyama. Yet they are the plurality of Americans.
Update September 30, 2018 (with minor updates to the above for clarity)
Having read "Identity" for a second time and other's reviews I have finally realized what has been really bothering me. The "story" falls flat. The final chapter is a bromide of "what should be." There is no "getting to Denmark." It is clear to me (but apparently not Dr. Fukuyama) that the 4th Estate is both a significant cause of identity politics and a possible positive force for creating a more creedal society. Their daily broadside of identity politics validates those who would see the society fractured into smaller and smaller interest groups. This may get "clicks" but is detrimental to society as a whole. How does one convince them to change their behavior?
Dr. Fukuyama speaks to a number of potential policy changes that in his opinion could move us in the right direction. But policy change requires elucidation of the rationale and persuasion of the need for change. The "Federalist Papers" weren't written because the Founders had a lot of spare time. (Equal time - nor were the Anti-Federalist Papers.)
My three star rating should not imply that reading this book is an unworthy use of time. (I have, for example, read it twice so far.) I had just hoped for more.
January 8, 2019. I just discovered that my android view has no button to link to comments. I happened to view this review on my desktop and have responded to some questions. My apologies.
Identity is definitely the best non-fiction book I have read in a very long time. It is disturbing, enlightening, and convincing; to me it also appeared very objective if approached with an open mind, although I suspect it will offend hardliners in both the liberal and conservative camps. His thesis is sophisticated, but the book is very readable, and his ultimate conclusion is positive: “Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate. That in the end will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.”
My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an advance review copy of this book.